Pixar Pal-A-Round Review – Disney California Adventure – Disneyland California

It is pretty hard to miss the Huge Ferris wheel that dominates Dinsey California Adventure’s skyline. The Huge Mickey smiling down on all guests lets you know you are definitely at Disneyland! But Ferris wheels are pretty old hat so most people, especially thrill-seekers may decide to skip this lumbering relic, especially as it has no Genie+ option and queues can be quite long. Is this a wise choice, however? Find out with our Pixar Pal-A-Round Review.

Pixar Pal-A-Round Review - Disney California Adventure
  • Location – Disney California Adventure – Pixar Pier
  • Type – Ferris Wheel – 160ft
  • Duration – 9:00+ Mins
  • Height Restriction – None
  • Average Queue time – 10 mins – 40 Mins
  • Fastpass – No
  • Single Rider – No
  • Additional Info – Not your usual Ferris Wheel
  • Thrill Rating
  • Fun
  • Smoothness And Comfort
  • Uniqueness and Theming
  • Value For Time

What is Pixar Pal-A-Round

The Pixar Pal-A-Round is Disney’s reimagining of the Ferris wheel. The Iconic Ferris wheel has been delighting fairground goers since just after the dinosaurs went extinct, or somewhere around then anyway. At around the turn of the Millenium, these iconic rides got a makeover. The Dawn of the observation wheel meant Ferris wheels were bigger, much bigger, and far more advanced. Disney, however, was building the California Adventure park and wanted a wheel in the traditional style, but traditional wasn’t enough. So they did something demonic to their new Ferris wheel and connected the gondolas to rails so they slide about and swing wildly as the wheel goes about its rotation.

The wheel is big by Ferris wheel standards at 160ft but small by the new super Observation wheel standards. These are traditional open gondolas though so expect some good height. Although the swinging version does not go near the full 160ft. Gondolas take up to 8 people and small groups will likely be asked to go with other people

Swinging vs Non-Swinging

Pixar Pal A Round entrance
Remember to Pick the CORRECT entrance – Pixar Pal-A-Round By Jeremy Thompson on CC2.0

If you are more of an old-school “I just like Ferris Wheels” kind of person, no problem. The Non-Swinging Gonadlas on the outside edge of the wheel is just that. They offer lovely views of the park and a nice sedate rotation with very little swinging of the gondola. Just like Ferris Wheels used to be. The Rest of this review will focus more on the Swinging version as we all know what a Ferris wheel is like.

Queue And Theme

The Rides theme is a bit mixed up. With the whole Victorian Boardwalk theme of the Pixar Pier, it fits in wonderfully and is a great focal point of both the Pier and the Park in general. However, the Pixar element is fairly weak and quite frankly it makes no difference to the ride. Mickey Still beams down on visitors to the park and the only Pixar element is the different Gonadalas featuring Pixar characters. Some Characters are big names such as Nemo and Dory, Woody, Wall-E, and Mike Wazowski, others are pretty obscure and really the ride could do without them…but we suppose it doesn’t hurt.

The queue is awful. A large cattle pen underneath the ride provides very little entertainment or amusement. You just watch the wheel go round and round until it’s your turn. There is no way to skip it as there is no Genie+ or Single Rider and the ride is very popular and slow loading so wait times can get pretty unbearable.

Ride Experience

The Ride Experience is nothing short of terrifying! The basic premise of a Ferris wheel is the Gondolas are attached to the wheel so even at the top you know in your head you are safe. With the strange rail system in place on the Swinging version that simple premise is missing. The gondolas are free to move around and this provokes a very uneasy feeling, to put it mildly.

Things start off ok as the wheel moves slowly upwards. at around a quarter of the way around the swinging starts. The entire gondola slides inwards towards the center of the wheel giving the sensation of the gondola becoming detached from the wheel. At the extent of the rail in the inner wheel, it then begins some pretty wild and very loose feeling swinging. Those prone to sea or motion sickness may have issued here. Once the energy dissipates the swinging slows and the ride continues over the top of the wheel.

As your gondola is now at the center of the wheel the view is pretty disappointing. You are a little over halfway up the height of the wheel and the great view of the park that the non-swinging gondolas enjoy is much diminished. Although it is still quite a good view!

On the way back down the inverse happens and the gondola now slides outwards to your impending doom! Obviously, the rails catch this fall and no one dies but for a moment you are not so sure! The wild swinging returns until you arrive back at the station.

You will get at least two goes around the wheel one fast and one slow as people are either loaded or unloaded. The whole loading and unloading process takes a while and you can take in the views, assuming the Gondola is not swinging wildly attempting to dislodge your lunch.


Overall it is a ride that is far scarier than it seems. Being a Ferris wheel, it has all the hallmarks of a safe family fun-fair attraction, the reality is it is a pretty heartstopping and wild ride. While it’s not a high-speed thrill ride the inherent unnaturalness of feeling the gondolas slide away down the rials just makes everything a bit horrifying.

As fairly hardened thrill-seekers we thoroughly enjoy this and being scared by a ride is no bad thing, we just worry people less willing to be scared and swung about might be convinced to go on this and not enjoy it at all. If you are unsure or just want the pleasant Ferris wheel experience then opt for non-swinging. If you ever wondered what it feels like to die on a Ferris wheel, go for the swinging!

Have Yor Say

Have you ridden the Pixar Pal-A-Round? How did you find it? Terrifying or have we oversold it? Did you decide to take the safe option and just ride the non-swinging version? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section and if you have any questions just fire away.

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